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Herbs for Pet Health

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If a long plane trip leaves your dog stressed and snappy, don't reach for a prescription to solve the problem. Today, herbal remedies are an effective way to alleviate a variety of pet health and behavioural troubles from anxiety to arthritis..

If a long plane trip leaves your dog stressed and snappy, don't reach for a prescription to solve the problem. Today, herbal remedies are an effective way to alleviate a variety of pet health and behavioural troubles from anxiety to arthritis. Sometimes, a simple change in diet can do the trick.

An overly aggressive dog or cat probably poses the most difficult challenge for pet owners. However, before considering an herbal treatment, ask yourself: Is my pet's nutrition the right type? In some cases, you can stop a pet's aggression by simply changing its food from a processed diet of kibble to a natural raw diet.

On the behavioural level, a pet can become fearful and strike out if it feels insecure in the animal hierarchy of its environment; for example, a resident dog can feel threatened by a visiting dog. In such cases, a pet owner can correct an animal's aggressive responses and rework its behaviour by introducing appropriate strategies; I strongly suggest working with an animal behaviourist.

For herbal treatment in such cases, valerian is a potent remedy. Choose it with caution: as a depressant, it can make your pet sad and listless. Other herbs that might prove useful are passionflower, lemon balm, chamomile or catnip; they can elevate your pet's mood. I often recommend the flower essence Rescue Remedy to calm anxious or aggressive pets.

Pets and Stress

My practice has received a growing number of calls about pets' nervousness and anxiety in stressful situations such as car rides or plane trips. If Rescue Remedy does not seem to work initially, passionflower, lemon balm or catnip, as previously mentioned, can have a calming effect. Another way to soothe your animal's nerves is with a Chinese herbal preparation called AD-C by Nature's Sunshine, which contains a variety of ingredients including bamboo sap, panax ginseng root and licorice root.

Help for Arthritis

Arthritis remains a common complaint among our aging animal population. Some pets have difficulty with those first few steps out of bed in the morning, indicating increased stiffness. Above all, good nutrition is paramount, so talk to your vet about this. I often supplement a pet's diet with calcium ascorbate, a form of vitamin C, together with glucosamine, and often combine them with various antioxidants. One excellent product is Recovery; most pet owners tell me they see benefits within a few weeks of applying this supplement. I usually give the pet six weeks before fully evaluating the product. It contains a combination of glucosamine and MSM with a blend of trademarked antioxidants.

Many different herbs can also help to improve your pet's arthritis. A herbalist can combine the suggested remedies, or you can try mixing the following yourself:

  • two parts alfalfa (assists waste-carrying capacity from body tissues)
  • one part dandelion root (helps eliminate toxins from the liver and transport waste out of the body)
  • one part parsley root (also has an affinity for removal of wastes from arthritic joints)
  • one part calendula or cleavers (again, a good lymphatic cleanse that helps remove waste from the joints).

For 13.6 kg (30 lbs) of body weight, mix in one tablespoon with the food daily.

You can use this treatment on a long-term basis for your pet, which helps eliminate animal wastes that might lead to joint inflammation.

For symptomatic relief of pain and inflammation in your arthritic pet, use one part alfalfa, one part yucca and one part licorice. This helps reduce inflammation associated with the joints. For those of you who dislike mixing herbs yourself, a highly useful and relatively new product is K9 MX. It contains, among other ingredients, Boswellia serrata, white willow bark, yucca root, devil's claw, sarsaparilla and feverfew, as well as glucosamine. Pet owners will often report an excellent response within a day or two after applying this herbal supplement.

Bowel Troubles

Diarrhea is another common pet problem that herbs will easily treat. Again, use caution; serious underlying conditions can lead to chronic diarrhea, so you might need to consult a professional. Otherwise, you can try astringent herbs such as raspberry leaf or chamomile leaf, which serve to contract mucous membranes. Slippery elm is a favourite that acts gently in this manner as well. Mix one teaspoon of powder with one cup of cold water and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Let simmer for a few minutes until the mixture thickens slightly. Let it cool and administer half a teaspoon to small dogs and cats and up to three to four tablespoons to very large dogs. You can give this four times a day as needed. I also recommend a 24-hour fast in all cases of pet diarrhea. If you notice troubling signs such as depression or severe vomiting, do not hesitate to call the vet.

Constipation can occur in your pet if digestion is sluggish and the animal's body does not fully absorb nutrients. Another common cause in older cats is kidney disease. Other possibilities include the swallowing of foreign bodies; your pet might strain in elimination while not producing stool. Be sure to rule out such potential causes before considering herbal treatment.

Herbal Formula

To combat constipation in your pet with herbs, try the following, which can be combined as a dry mix, low-alcohol tincture or strong tea:

  • two parts dandelion root
  • two parts marshmallow root
  • one part Oregon grape
  • one part yellow dock
  • one part fennel (reduces gas)

For dogs, use one teaspoon of the tea or dry mix or one millilitre of the tincture per 13.6 kg (30 lbs) of body weight.

For cats, use one-quarter to half a teaspoon or one-quarter to half a millilitre of the tincture per 6.8 kg (15 pounds) of body weight.

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